In July 2018 the Bosco-Milligan Foundation/Architectural Heritage Center took the unusual step of filing an appeal of Portland’s Central City 2035 Plan with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) to protect New Chinatown/Japantown, one of the most diverse and culturally significant districts in the city. The appeal was undertaken for two reasons: to protect the district from incompatible height limits (200 feet) that were pushed through by City Council in a last minute amendment to the Central City 2035 Plan and to protest the lack public input on the Council amendment approving the height increase. The AHC supports compatible, new development that can revitalize districts such as New Chinatown/Japantown. However, the 200 foot height limit is not compatible in an important architectural and cultural district and would overwhelm its buildings that stand at 2-3 stories. The second and equally important point of the appeal was that there was no prior public notice or opportunity for the public to weigh in on the change, which is a violation of the public process.
LUBA delivered its ruling this August and the results were mixed. We won on the issue of building heights: LUBA said the City did not show how the 200 foot height complies with the Comp Plan goal of compatibility in historic districts. However, on the second point, LUBA ruled that public testimony is not required for every amendment made on a legislative proposal.
The AHC continues to maintain that the public process should have been upheld and that bypassing it sets a bad precedent going forward. After careful consideration, the AHC and its co-petitioners (Restore Oregon, the Portland Chinatown History Foundation/Portland Chinatown Museum, and The Oregon Nikkei Endowment) decided to appeal. We will be sure to keep you posted on developments as this moves forward.